Charlottesville City Council
has unanimously reaffirmed their support for a 50-year Community Water Supply Plan. The 5-0 vote came after Mayor
added two amendments to a resolution of support which call for a feasibility study of maintenance dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as well as increased conservation efforts on the part of the City. The action came despite the protests of opponents who claim that the permit received in February of 2008 has nothing to do with the state requirement that the community establish a 30 to 50 year water supply plan.
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During the public comment period, former City Councilor Kevin Lynch reported back from a recent trip he and other members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan took to Richmond to meet with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials about the permit.
“In November 2005, the state passed what they call the Local and Regional Water Supply Planning Law, and that is something that two weeks ago, when you had the public hearing on the plan, Council didn’t know it existed,” Lynch said. “This regulation establishes a planning process and criteria that all local governments will use in the development of local or regional plans, and the reason that’s important is because you all have been representing this permit application… that in fact is a water plan. It is not in the eyes of the state.”
Norris acknowledged the concerns brought up by Lynch and others, and said he needed to differentiate between the local or regional water supply plan and that which is required by the state of Virginia.
“There are two different processes, two different plans, and hopefully obviously they converge, but for the purposes of tonight, we are not talking about the water supply plan that is a state requirement which includes a number of things that our own local plan and the permit that I expect we’ll be working to implement,” Norris said.
The resolution spells out the components of the water supply plan, including a dam at Ragged Mountain which will raise the water pool 45 feet higher, a new pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, two phases of upgrades of the Observatory Water Treatment Plant, replacement of piping from the Ragged Mountain Reservoir to that plant, as well as expanded capacity at the South Fork Rivanna Water Treatment Plant. Norris read the entire resolution for the record.
“The purpose of this resolution is to seek continued Council support for the water supply plan Council previously endorsed in 2006,” Norris said. “It is my opinion… that the plan may not got far enough and that there have been some legitimate concern raised specifically on two issues.”
Norris said he appreciated the fundamentals of the plan- keeping water local and restoring flow to the Moormans River – but said it needed improvement, so he offered two amendments to the resolution. One called on the RWSA to begin a study to determine the viability of maintenance dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, and the other called upon the City to increase efforts to promote water conservation throughout the RWSA urban system.
, who is the only sitting member of Council to have voted for the plan in 2006, said the opponents of the plan roughly fell into two categories – people who don’t want trees cut down to expand the Ragged Mountain Dam and those who assume City Council will always choose the most expensive option, no matter what.
“I think the issue there is, how much water can you obtain by dredging, and the issue is that you can’t obtain enough,” Brown said. “If you can’t obtain enough by dredging, then you have to build more capacity somewhere…and I think most people are in agreement and I think [the RWSA] and Council at the time looked at other ways. For example, taking water from Beaver Creek in Crozet, and I think all the other measures were rejected.”
Brown said building the new Ragged Mountain dam at its full height is the most economical option, given that the majority of the cost of the estimated $37 million project is to build the base. Brown said he supported the amendments for maintenance dredging, but not as a complete solution to the community’s water supply needs.
“To try to combine dredging with also expanding the dam part way just doesn’t work economically,” he said. “It makes much more sense to expand the dam further and make sure there’s plenty of water.”
, who served as the City’s Fire Chief for several years, said he wanted to look into dredging, but did not want to delay the implementation of the plan.
“If you look at the system in Charlottesville, we have a system that some people would say is overbuilt in the City,” Taliaferro said. “Many years ago, that was done, and of course over time, the capacity had been diminished by encrustation in the piping and those sorts of issues. And I’ve thought about it sometimes when we’ve had major fires in the City, it’s nice to know you have an adequate water supply because in many cities that is not the situation… that always gave me a lot of comfort. I don’t want to gamble with the future of the water supply. And we can argue about population estimates and I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong on that. Where I stand is I would like to move ahead on it, but at the same time I do want to look at the dredging issue and if something changes on that I’m certainly open to making some adjustments.”
said the controversy surrounding the water plan showed the need to educate the public on how the Council-Manager form of government works, and she also called for more information on how authorities like the RWSA are connected to the City government. Edwards also said there had been a lot of second-guessing.
“A lot of people are saying ‘Well, why didn’t we do dredging before?’ We could spend a lot of time talking about decisions from the past that we should have made before, but to do that really becomes almost hurtful in a way. So I think we need to think about how we need to move beyond some of the issues that were explored… We’ve created a culture where we hold on to issues and it’s so hard to move on, that sometimes it’s better to make a decision right or wrong then to live in conflict. And I think so many of us live within conflict. I struggled with this because I wanted to make sure I had enough information to balance what was going to be the right thing to do for the greater good. I spent time in parts of woods I’ve never seen before. So I had to see the trees that were going to be involved and the land that was going to be affected. I also went from the extreme of seeing Sugar Hollow and then going back to Hardy Drive and just wondering what the balance is for the greater good. I am now more comfortable with the plan because of the language that requires conservation efforts and exploring the dredging,” Edwards said.
told the story of when his father came to visit him in Charlottesville. When two pine trees were cut down in Huja’s yard, his father asked why he hadn’t replaced them for the benefit of future generations.
“Same goes for water… Some group of leaders decided 50 or 100 years back that water was needed for future generations. We have the chance to make the same kind of decisions now to see take up the future needs of our community,” Huja said. “I take a very long term view.” He said the plan met his criteria, especially with the two amendments introduced by Mayor Norris.
After his fellow Councilors weighed in, Norris clarified the intent of the amendments.
“We are asking the RWSA to commence with the sedimentation studies and the feasibility studies on dredging,” Norris said. “And on the conservation side, this isn’t empty language. I think there’s a lot of opportunity… to raise the bar on conservation, and I want us to take that very seriously….If we’re going to have water gains anyway from these measures, it certainly does open up the possibility that there are pieces of this plan, specifically relating to the height of the new dam, that we can revisit.”
Council then voted 5-0 to amend the resolution as proposed by Norris. Council then began a public hearing on the utility rates for FY 2009. Charlottesville Tomorrow will present a report on that discussion separately.